All posts tagged: Louis Armstrong

How The Atlantic first made sense of jazz

How The Atlantic first made sense of jazz

In 1922, a musicologist imagined how future historians might judge the day’s jazz cynics. Illustration by The Atlantic. Source: PhotoQuest / Getty February 8, 2024, 12:09 PM ET This is an edition of Time-Travel Thursdays, a journey through The Atlantic’s archives to contextualize the present and surface delightful treasures. Sign up here. The year 1922 was an auspicious moment for America’s greatest original art form: A young cornetist named Louis Armstrong left New Orleans for Chicago to join King Oliver’s band, and the dowdy old Atlantic undertook its first efforts to make sense of the new musical genre known as jazz. To explain the fresh sounds, the magazine turned to Carl Engel, a composer and musicologist who served for years as the Library of Congress’s music-division chief. His approach is almost parodically scholarly; I imagine him setting his monocle down on a music stand to deliver this definition of the blues: “What the uninitiated tried to define by that homely appellation was, perhaps, an indistinct association of the minor mode and dyspeptic intonation with poor …